Historical Marker Text
The Principio Company constructed the Accokeek Iron Furnace nearby about 1726 on land leased from Augustine Washington (father of George Washington), who became a partner. After Washington’s death in 1743, his son Lawrence inherited his interest in the company and the furnace. When he in turn died ten years later, his share descended first to his brother Augustine Washington Jr. and later to William Augustine Washington. The archaeological site is a rare example of an 18th-century Virginia industrial enterprise. It includes the furnace location, the wheel pit and races, a retaining wall made of slag, an extensive slag dump, and mine pits. 
Colonial Virginia proved very resourceful for early industry. Early in the eighteenth century, prospectors found large deposits of iron ore in many of Virginia’s rivers. In 1715, Alexander Spotswood opened the first regular blast iron furnace in North America at Germanna on the Rappahannock River. The Rappahannock region soon became the headquarters of the Principio Company of England, the largest exporter of iron in the colonies (Darter 102).
It soon became clear that there were rich iron deposits on land along Accokeek Creek, owned by Augustine Washington, George Washington’s father. Though his primary occupation was planting, in 1725, Washington entered into an agreement with the Principio Company to build and co-manage an iron furnace on his land. In 1728, Washington made another agreement with the Principio Company to bear one-sixth of the costs of running the furnace. He traveled to England twice to clarify the terms of these contracts (Dalzell 25). Until his death in 1735, John England bore most of the responsibilities of managing the furnace.
After England’s death, Augustine had to put more time into the mine and this very much influenced his decision to move his family closer. They settled at Ferry Farm, across the river from Fredericksburg (Freeman 56).When Augustine Washington died in 1743, the furnace went to his eldest son, Lawrence Washington, George’s half brother. Lawrence died nine years later and the mine went to his younger brother, Augustine Washington Jr. The furnace operated until 1756.The site now represents the second-oldest eighteenth century blast furnace in Virginia. Remains on the site include evidence of a store, warehouses, mill, forge, worker’s living quarters, mill wheel pit and races, a retaining wall, and mine pits (Loth 500).
“Accokeek Iron Furnace marker,” Department of Historic Resources Historical Highway Markers, http://www.dhr.virginia.gov/hiway_markers/marker.cfm?mid=3930 (accessed April 12, 2008).
For Further Reference
Bruce, Kathleen. Virginia Iron Manufacture in the Slave Era. New York: The Century Co., 1931.
Dalzell, Robert F. and Lee Baldwin Dalzell. George Washington’s Mount Vernon: At Home in Revolutionary America. Oxford University Press, 2000.
Darter, Oscar H. Colonial Fredericksburg and Neighborhood in Perspective. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1957.
Freeman, Douglas Southall. George Washington: A Biography. Vol. 1, Young Washington. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1948.
George Washington’s Fredericksburg Foundation. http://www.kenmore.org (accessed April 15, 2008).
Loth, Calder. The Virginia Landmarks Register. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press, 1999.
Swank, James Moore. History of the Manufacture of Iron in All Ages, and Particularly in the United States for Three Hundred Years, from 1585 to 1885. The American Iron and Steel Association, 1892.